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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

DEVIATION update

DEVIATION is shooting right now!

For those of you hiding under a rock for the last twelve days since my last announcement here, there and everywhere: DEVIATION is a dark, feature-length thriller starring Danny Dyer and Anna Walton (Hellboy 2: The Golden Army). The movie tells the story of a young nurse, Amber (Walton), who is kidnapped and held hostage in her own car by Frankie (Dyer), an escaped convict desperate to leave the country. Think women in peril thrillers like RED EYE and PANIC ROOM (with a British slant/twist) and you can't go far wrong.

It's written and directed by the fab JK Amalou and produced by the tenacious Lara Greenway (fresh off the awesome CRIKEY VILLAINS), as well as JK and Michael Riley of Sterling Pictures.

What am I to this picture? I am the associate producer. A few people have asked me what this entails, so a quick rundown. I started off as the script editor, but this role has snowballed as time's gone on to inevitably include other stuff that needs doing - and there's always stuff that needs doing on a low budget movie!! At the moment I'm running the online campaign for the film as well as dealing with PR and Publicity in general, so I'm making a LOT of calls and liaising with a lot of people! It's been a massive learning curve and I can definitely say it's a big privilege to be working on this. I really believe in this script and feel it's going to make a fantastic film.

What's particularly interesting about Deviation however - and what drew me to the project in the first place - is its characterisation. It would be very easy to resort to stereotype in this scenario (and plenty of mediocre movies have): "oh, little girl kidnapped/overcome by the bad man" -- noooooo thanks.

Frankie might be one of the most dangerous men a woman would ever have the misfortune to run into, but he's no 2D nutter licking knives and threatening rape against his hapless captive. Even more importantly, he's not the type of antagonist Amber will "fall for" or try and help get away either!!

Instead, Amber she wants to get away and take back the power WHATEVER WAY SHE CAN. She's no victim, she's a real woman with real problems (even before she's kidnapped); but crucially Amber isn't going to go up against Frankie with martial arts skillz or sexysexy seduction techniques, but rather her own wits.

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Monday, November 22, 2010

5 Pitching Tips

It must be *that* time of year again when Screenwriting students have to pitch projects, because I've had a bunch of emails, tweets and messages asking about my "top tips" - and it suddenly occurred to me I have not actually written a formal post about this, which is a tad remiss of me.

First off, I should say that I'm at best, a competent pitcher and like everyone else, have had some triumphs and some UNBELIEVABLE DISASTERS THAT WILL CAUSE ME EMBARRASSMENT FOREVER. Like the time I arrived at a well-known theme park for a script meeting (yes really) and before I even got through the door (never mind pitch), I had beheaded a dummy/statue of an equally well-known figure by hooking my bag on him and basically THROWING him down the stairs ahead of me. Ground - swallowed. Though I did get the gig.

My friends and Bang2writers frequently pitch me via email, my pages, by calling me etc in a "what do you think of this?" way and of course I've heard other people's pitches at various meetings before. And I've READ stacks and stacks, especially one pagers, though also query letters on occasion too. Reading scripts and trying to "boil down" a script's concept to a logline too is a handy reverse way of looking at work and their central concepts too, I'd say.

However, just recently I was lucky enough to listen to other people's pitches in a more formal, timed setting during the speed pitching event at London Screenwriters Festival. If you've never speed pitched (putched? ; ), basically it's just like this - producer/agent/script editors etc at tables; you plonk down in front of them and pitch; once your five minutes is up, you move on to the next one. If you're lucky, that last person you've pitched to might invite you to send them your script or at least a one pager. A nice, simple set up but of course terrifying for the pitchers (and occasionally for the pitchees too, I would imagine).

So, based on this experience - which is mine, not anyone else's - I'd say:

1) Know your logline inside out. Knowing the central concept yourself and relaying it as clearly as possible is an absolute must, don't make the person you're pitching to have to guess. What's more, you can relay your logline as formally or informally as you like, it really doesn't matter; no one is ever going to jump on you for being prepared, so if you have to read out your logline 'cos of nerves, where's the harm? Remember though: a logline is not a tagline.

2. Don't forget to tell your pitchee what your project IS. Really obvious here, but I often finding myself asking things like, "Is it for television or film?" Occasionally people will say, "Both", but I think that's a bit of a cop out as knowing exactly *what* your project is gives us clues about its identity, which remember is not to be underrated. From here you might get asked a bit about the project's genre or its audience - so if it's for TV, what sort of slot are we looking at? Is it a returning drama, continuing drama or serial? If it's a film, what kind of certificate do you envisage and why? Who is your audience? What types of things have they watched before? Why would they like your project? BUT I've heard people don't like hearing stuff like "JAWS MEETS PITCH BLACK". This might be true, though to be honest I don't think I've knowingly met people who absolutely hate using this device. One note of caution I would issue with it - just sticking two movies/shows together does not necessarily "inform" us what your movie/show is "like", who its audience is or why they might like your project. I would be more inclined to say something like, "The audience who might like this movie are the types who may have watched the likes of [two or three similar movies], are in this [age range] and may have read books like [1 or 2 books]", plus any other useful demographical information that can illustrate the interests of this audience - ie. you have done your research.

3. Do I bring any extras with me? I think this depends on the context. As I mentioned on the London Screenwriters Blog, don't ever press scripts or USBs into the hands of others, unsolicited. If a speed pitching session, I don't see anything wrong with giving your pitchee a one pager, though I think it's polite to ask first. If you're doing a more formal pitch and have been told you can bring props, one pagers, mood boards or powerpoint, then ALWAYS DO SO, because such things can make you less self conscious and thus feed into helping your confidence and focus; they also help others to "visualise" your project better. But keep it as simple as possible and don't overload people. Oh - and if in doubt, ask what you can bring.

4. Don't get caught up in the plot. Remember, you're pitching a project your pitchee has NOT READ YET. Whilst this is mindnumbingly obvious, it's VERY easy to lapse into "and this happens... and then this happens... and then this happens..." as part of your pitch. The pitchee is more than likely going to zone out, because it's difficult to focus on the comings and goings of a story you haven't got the "bigger picture" on, if that makes sense. Instead of going for the smaller details then, give us a "sense" of the WHOLE. Lots of pitching people recommend "selling the sizzle, not the steak" - and this is what they mean by this: logline, characters, goals, genre, audience, *that* type of stuff, not the ins and outs of the plot.

5. Calm down. It's very easy to get het up when pitching and unexpected things *do* happen; once at a pitching event I shook someone's hand as I was sitting down, missed my chair, fell to the floor AND pulled them over the table so the (rather rickety!) table collapsed. It was very, very embarrassing. But hey, the producer in question will always remember me. But hopefully this kind of calamity will not befall you and all you'll get is a case of chronic nerves. If this happens, don't panic. If your mind goes blank or you start stuttering or whatever, just be truthful and say you need a moment to compose yourself. No one's going to think any the less of you.

For anyone who wants it, here is the model pitch I often provide for those who ask me:

Hi, I'm [name, a little bit of relevant b.g - one/two sentences max]. I'm here today to pitch a [genre of project/title of project], it's a [TV script/Film script/web series/whatever]. The logine is [logline] and it's aimed at [audience + why].

Obviously depending on the context/time you have (and whether you have props or other people with you), you can expand or reduce it to fit. I think it encapsulates those burning questions a pitchee *might* have about your project, which means in the questions/feedback part you can talk in more detail about the project, rather than chase after any important, yet missing elements you didn't cover in the first instance.

GOOD LUCK!!!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Film Shorts Club

So, in response to the YES votes I got here, on Facebook, Twitter and even on email, I can announce this is *the* place to list yourself as a short film writer, producer or director wanting to collaborate (or indeed anyone else interested in making short films - actors, DoPs, music people, art designers and other crew welcome too).

PLEASE NOTE:

a) Please list your REAL NAME as well as your online handle, plus email address; suggested format for email addresses yournameATproviderDOTcom, to avoid those pesky bots. Please make sure you say what your title is WRITER, DIRECTOR, PRODUCER, etc, what GENRES or "types" of story you're interested in AND whether you're looking to expand your horizons - ie. if you're a writer who wants to produce. Please also include anything else that may be helpful - ie. if you've been shortlisted or made UKFC funded films before, etc.

b) As with The Feedback Exchange, please list yourself in the comments section of THIS POST ONLY. This is to ensure we have an easily searchable database, linked to on the right hand sidebar of this blog. If for any reason you can't log in to Blogger, please email me on Bang2writeATaolDOTcom with your details and I'll add you.

A FEW THINGS:

1) The first rule of Shorts Club - EVERYONE TALKS ABOUT SHORTS CLUB. I daresay many writers will join in the first instance and we will outnumber the producers and directors. These things take time to build up. It's no good saying, "Oooooh, there's only writers on there", we ALL have a responsibility to make sure this gets as wide as possible. So tell all your filmmaking friends. Post on filmmaking forums, FB pages and websites. Put on your own Facebook and Twitter. Tell people at that *event* you're at. And don't just do it ONCE, remind people about Shorts Club too. Let's make this the best, most diverse pool of short filmmaking on the interwebs, it benefits all of us!

2) Occasionally you will find projects go belly up or you have to walk away for whatever reason. These things happen. Take it on the chin and DON'T slag off the people on this list, or this list. Be professional.

3) If you successfully put a short together with people from this list, make sure I know about it - let me help share the good news! Equally, if you have any other stories about short filmmaking to share that will inspire others, please consider writing a guest post for this blog or let me know the link from yours.

Now go forth, my short filmmaking friends and MAKE SOME FILMS!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

We Luv Short Shorts

Many thanks to Dave Herman, who asks about the business of finding a producer/director for your short film. So let's fast forward the writing part. You've got a short: it's amazing. Now what?

As Dave rightly points out on my Facebook group Bang2writers (join here), there is a well trodden path into TV and Film (FYI, "well trodden" doesn't mean "easy"), yet short film *feels* a lot more like a free-for-all. Where do you even start getting that film OFF the page and rendered as image?

First off, I can only tell you how I've done it and what's happened. Please feel free to share your experiences in the comments section, too. So let's go:

Meeting as many people as possible. One of my very first paid gigs was a short film. It was called The Design and I think it's fair to say it didn't even vaguely turn out the way we planned for a variety of very involved reasons. However, it was a really interesting learning curve, the guy who put up the money was pleased with it, so it's all good. But how did I get that gig? After all, it's unusual to be paid actual money for a short film. It went like this...

I knew someone who worked for someone who was looking for a writer who nominated me; we worked on a project that didn't work out, but we didn't burn any bridges and that other person nominated me to another friend who ended up working on a project with no writer and needed someone who could deliver a draft in a week.

Phew. Got all that? It happened so organically I'm not even sure *I* did, even at the time. But basically, it boils down to this: knowing as many people as possible and making sure your reach EXTENDS TO AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE is absolutely imperative in getting people to believe they can work with you.

My story was early noughties, so there was no Twitter or Facebook or even blogs really, so how did I get my reach to those people? It was as basic as this: LET EVERYONE READ YOUR WORK. And I mean, EVERYONE. I know some writers only want actual directors or producers to read their work, but I think this is shortsighted - you never know who *that* person who's just asked to read your work is *going* to be five years from now... Or who they know RIGHT NOW. So, whenever anyone wants to ask to read my work, shorts or otherwise, my answer? "Yes." Where's the harm? Remember, no one's going to steal your work anyway... and you have everything to gain, potentially. It's even easier to do this now, with the likes of Power of Three so popular, you can join The Feedback Exchange here, for free even.

Use Twitter and Facebook. At the end of last year, I decided the time was ripe to start a new short film. I made two shorts last year with Studio Schoque, Safe and Slash (still in post production, hopefully some news soon). Safe was a supernatural drama; Slash was a spoof horror. I decided I needed a new direction: I fancied something "arty", something deliberately "short filmy" - and figured SW Screen's Digital Shorts might be worth another punt. So I posted on Twitter something along the lines of:

Going for SW Screen Digital Shorts as a writer... Any directors out there who want to come in with me?

I got a fair few replies - but the one that stood out was Guy Ducker. He was already a Facebook friend, but had always been on the peripheral of my social network as a "friend of a friend", rather than someone I'd met in real life at that time. He ended up reading Slash and I watched his showreel - and we both liked what we saw. I pitched him a couple of ideas and we ended up developing a short about a magic mirror. Of course, SW Screen passed on it, but with a bit of luck we'll shoot it next year, regardless. Guy brought on the producer, Matt - and what I love about Guy is his commitment to the script itself - it's had at least seven drafts now (a few of them quite involved rewrites), he's not rushing it. Just the way directors should be, I reckon.

DON'T Use Twitter and Facebook like this. So many people use social networking purely to vent: "I'm so busy I have no life", "I hate parents with buggies", "I am so exhausted", "I have a terrible hangover/cold/life" blah blah blah BORING. If you want to vent, then at least be evil and twisted enough to be INTERESTING FFS. And for God's sake, stop telling everyone how depressed you are about the state of filmmaking/your career/whatever, save those moments for your real friends or your psychiatrist. It sucks for EVERYONE at some point, sometimes you will feel as if you're putting one foot forward only to slide twenty back. Plus you'd be surprised too who's REALLY having a shit time: it's very often the people you admire the most for being positive, proactive or successful in ways you're not. Why? It boils down to this: the MORE you do, the MORE rejection you get. So suck it up and keep moving. Get a name for yourself as a whiner and you're doooooooooooomed! Dooooooomed I tell you!!!! Not sure how Twitter works? A Twit's Guide To Twitter.

Find crew and cast even before you have a script. Writers are much more "up" for helping each other out these days and I think that's great. But as I often say to my Bang2writers, other writers can only help you so much. At the end of the day, writers NEED the input of producers, directors, actors, DoPs, whatever to "complete" that puzzle and make that short film. So don't just hide out in the writers' pool - dip a toe into the different aspects of the filmmaking community. Learn about what's important to them, what they like, who they're interested in. If you can, do a bit of running and experience a real set. Help out as many directors and producers as you can in whatever ways you can. Basically: BUILD RELATIONSHIPS. Then, when you have a short film to shoot - suddenly you have a whole list of people to approach and say, "Do you fancy making this WITH me?" Even if people in your network can't, they might point you in the direction of someone who can... Relationships and recommendations go a long way in this business, especially when you're asking people to work for free as shorts often do.

Know what you want. If you want to write a short about magicians and rabbits, but the producer you've met online or at a party wants to make one about tower blocks and child abuse, WALK AWAY. Find the RIGHT person to work with. No producer *can* be better than *any* producer. Besides anything, you want to keep that Ken Loach-style producer in your pocket for ANOTHER project, when you DO want to write a short like that (and who can say you NEVER will? Or that you won't want to hook them up with someone else?). Don't burn bridges for a reason like this, it's daft. No one is EVER going to mind you saying, "To be honest, I don't think we're on the same page". Unless of course you punch them in the face and/or set fire to their trousers at the same time, that's just antisocial.

Maintain your contacts properly. People hate it when you only contact them because you WANT something. Try and take an interest in ALL your contacts in some small way - yes, it's time consuming, but the internet has made it easier than ever; I remember back in the noughties mailing piles and piles of Christmas Cards by SNAIL MAIL! Now I can write on people's Facebook walls for their birthdays, wish them well for shoots; comment on their blog posts and statuses; join their groups and pages; chat about important life stuff on occasion, too. And it's NOT just cos I *might* want something off them in the future either - I actually enjoy building and maintaining these relationships, some of my most trusted friends in REAL life started off hiring me as a Bang2writer or in a script meeting about some project that's long since dead in the water. It enhances your life not just as a writer, but as a person.

Finally, Dave makes the suggestion I should have a SHORT FILM EXCHANGE, where writers, directors and producers can meet up on here to actively collaborate, just like the Script Exchange. If I get ten votes for YES, I'll set that up. Be sure to comment here though.... GO!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Media Parents Meeting In Bristol

Amy Walker joined me on a panel about parenthood and flexible working at London Screenwriters Festival, so I was only too happy to pass this message along from her - I think Media Parents is a fab idea and could really open up flexible working for everyone, not just parents. If you live in Bristol or the surrounding areas, please give Media Parents your support!
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Media Parents is a jobs and social networking website for parents and others who want to work flexibly in TV. 5000 women and 750 men left TV over the last 3 years - Media Parents is hoping to stem this talent drain and keep talented people working in media.

Media Parents is currently organising a meeting : Can TVWork More Flexibly in the South West? which will take place on Tuesday
November 23rd at 6:00pm at BBC Bristo
l.The simple aim of this meeting is to share information on best practice of flexible working as a partial and positive solution to some of the problems we are facing in TV, as outlined by Skillset’s
recent data. We hope that the meeting will result in more media employers and freelancers being open to the idea of job sharing and flexible working, and seeing a way to make this happen.

Attendees include: representatives from BBC Bristol, Bristol Anchor Partnership, SWScreen, and employers and freelancers from across the South West and Wales. It would be great to see you there too.

If you are an employer or freelancer in the South West or Cardiff, and would like to attend this event please send an email entitled MEDIA PARENTS BRISTOL and detailing your full name and job title and any comment you would
like to make about your experience of flexible working to admin@mediaparents.co.uk.

Please feel free to forward this to anyone you think would be interested in coming along.
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If you go, let us know!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Spectre of T2's Sarah Connor

First off, let me just say: there's nothing inherently wrong with liking Terminator 2: Judgement Day. There are some great set pieces, Arnie is in fine form (even if the internal logic of the piece is completely screwy: he's a good guy now? It was THAT easy? Then why did John send back Kyle in the first place FFS??) but I do recall as a child being blown away by the melting guy and *that* vision of the nuclear strike. So yeah. As action pieces go: why not.

But as regular readers of this blog know, I effing hate Sarah Connor in this version. Not because she's a *bad* character per se, but because I hear, time and time again, what a fantastic example of STRONG FEMALE CHARACTERISATION she is, especially from men. Again: nothing *wrong* with liking women kicking ass - if forced to choose, I'd choose that over the princess tied to the railway tracks by the villain with the enormous moustache.

But let's not pretend Sarah Connor in T2 (and her multiple replicants in the almost two decades to follow) are anything other than the flipside of the SAME COIN. Holding her up as an ICON, *the* way to do it, is what grieves me - especially when her spectre LOOMS over the spec pile and produced movies SO frequently.

So let's break it down:

Motherhood. This is a woman who's conceived a child from ONE night of passion by a now dead lover who came from the future. She's managed to ensure her pregnancy has gone smoothly, she's given birth, she's managed to drop off the grid, she's managed to raise a child in a nomadic fashion. That's pretty difficult, I grant you. What's more, she has the knowledge her child will SAVE MANKIND. Wow! That's quite a privilege and a huge responsibility. Lots has been made of Sarah's likeness to Mary here, but I have one problem with this. To me, Mary is a loving, protective mother who not only adores her son, but backs Jesus up in his mission, even though she must know it will end badly for him (and indeed, for her), but she puts him first as good mothers are wont to do. In direct contrast, Sarah treats John as a commodity throughout the duration of T2, even checking him for DAMAGE as if he was like the machines coming after him and IGNORING his pleading cries for affection. This means her ludicrous rant about maternity in the Skynet guy's kitchen has very little impact, because just *what* is this character supposed to be - a loving mother or a hard-faced mercenary/bodyguard? Because it seems the latter to me, every time. So why did we need Arnie, then?

Military training. Let's remember for a moment Sarah Connor was plunged into this living nightmare through no fault of her own. In Terminator she was just a young, good time girl with no military aspirations. A decade later, she's so hardcore she's almost unrecognisable. Now, much has been said of the idea Sarah WOULD bulk up, become fantastic with weaponry, whatever - there's an apocalypse coming FFS, who wouldn't want to BE PREPARED??? But there's two issues here. 1) Sarah knows Skynet will go NUCLEAR to destroy the world. What the hell use is advanced weaponry on the ground? 2) There's being prepared - and there's being prepared. Sarah knows full well she CAN defeat a Terminator with very few weapons, even none: in the first film she did not kill Arnie with a big-ass gun, she OUT-WITTED HIM, by drawing him into the big presser thing in the factory and crushing him. What's more, Sarah and Kyle spent most of the film RUNNING from Arnie - that's the most effective thing you can do from an unstoppable killing machine against which bullets are INEFFECTIVE. Why didn't Sarah work solely on keeping John OUT of the spotlight and close to her at ALL TIMES, instead of BOTHERING with all this military training that isolates her from her child?? To make herself feel better? No wonder John thinks she's so selfish - she is.

Her insanity. There's no value judgement here about people with mental health issues, let's just get that straight first: I'm NOT saying someone who loses their sanity is weak. No way. However, I have consistently heard how Sarah's insanity is a "fantastic" and even "realistic", because WHO WOULDN'T GO INSANE IF THEY KNEW THE END OF THE WORLD WAS COMING? But let's just rewind that. There's an apocalypse coming, you know this for a FACT. Your kid needs to be protected AT ALL COSTS 'cos he is the new Messiah. And Sarah - who's supposed to be a good mother, remember - not only doesn't have a back up plan of who will look after John if she's indisposed (ie. in the asylum) so he ends up fostered by God-knows-who, she doesn't even remember to KEEP HER MOUTH SHUT ABOUT THE APOCALYPSE?? Really??? When we have such a rich history of imprisoning and abusing people who claim the apacalypse is coming, but Sarah conveniently forgets this EVEN WHEN HER SON NEEDS HER MORE. Tsk. Oh, but but! You say: she's insane, she doesn't know what she's saying!!! Then that's either pretty lazy writing or a PLOT MANOEUVRE to make sure she's out the way and John is on his own, not "great characterisation".

So like Sarah Connor all you want: be my guest. But DON'T tell me she's a "great female character".

LINKS

Unsung Movie Heroines by me

Why Sarah from Jurrassic Park: The Lost World Is A Good Female Character by me

A Breakdown of "Typical" Female Roles by Me on Twelve Point (Free Article)

Why "Strong Female Characters" Are Bad For Women

The Female Character Roles Flow Chart

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Exciting News

I have a little announcement.

Because I haven't got enough to do, raising children, cats and African Land Snails whilst writing my arse off, I figured it might be fun to be Associate Producer on a feature called Deviation. (As you do).

You can find out the movie via its blog, here. And please join the fanpage on Facebook here. And read the synopsis here. And follow Deviation via Twitter, here --->@devmov.

Plenty more announcements re: cast, crew, the shoot, etc coming soon. Sign up now and PLEASE tell all your friends and followers about us!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Streetdance 3D: More Please

SPOILERS So I watched Streetdance 3D recently. Actually I watched the 2D version, cos 3D gives me migraines, but you catch my drift: I watched *that* UK Dance Movie; the first one ever, apparently.

The US in particular has a rich history of dance movies going back to the age of Fred Astaire and the Goldigger movies, so I've always wondered why the UK doesn't do them. Certainly as a young kid/teenager I watched all of the usual suspects - Dirty Dancing, Fame, Footloose, Strictly Ballroom, Saturday Night Fever, Stayin' Alive, even Coyote Ugly, Step Up and Save The Last Dance. So did my friends, both male and female - my brother, my sisters, their friends and so it goes on. In short: there's a big market there. So why has the UK chosen to ignore this phenomenon until now?

Well, it's easy to point the finger at Streetdance 3D. The acting is mostly abysmal for one; plus there's more shots of the boyfriend and the lead female in bed together than I deemed strictly necessary (Dirty Dancing it ain't). There's nothing here we haven't *really* seen before either - a culture clash of streetdance and ballet might be "the same, but different", but in all honesty it's mostly the same as *the* young woman or man who *learns something about life through dance* just like all the rest of them.

But then that's the appeal of dance movies: they ARE mostly the same. These are essentially extended pop videos with a bit "extra" thrown in. And that "extra" is what Streetdance 3D does really well:

- London looks FANTASTIC in Streetdance 3D. We've seen so many shots of LA, San Francisco, Miami, wherever in this sort of way, but I'm struggling to think of a movie that makes OUR Capital somewhere to be proud of like this. Instead, we've been concentrating on making our major conurbations look like miserable places to live, so this was an especially welcome change.

- The script might be let down by some poor acting, but it's better than you might think. The structure is smooth and allows for extended dance sequences without feeling lumpy or confused or as if you're waiting for the next one to start. Characters are differentiated enough to be interesting, but not so much it's a mad melee of faces and names too (no mean feat when you consider just how MANY dancers are in Streetdance 3D, never mind the supporting cast of dance teachers and examiners).

- Breaking the rules and challenging tradition is placed at the heart of this narrative and is never better than when everyone at the Streetdance competition at the end actually BOO *our* dancers, but they (inevitably) turn it around. Throughout the whole piece, there is the notion that "as long as you work hard and are honest and decent, you get your reward". This is highlighted by the traitor Jay, the original leader of the crew, who defects to champion group The Surge, doing his friend and girlfriend over to be in with a chance of winning. Which of course he doesn't, so he gets what HE deserves.

- Streetdance 3D never once forgets who its audience is. Young people watch hours and hours of MTV; they love dancing and they love storytelling - but as I've said before on this blog, simplicity is key in the pop video, thus it must be here as well to allow for those extended dance sequences. But simplicity does not mean "dumbed down": not once does Streetdance 3D treat its core audience like idiots and even provides a fantastic reversal at the mid point dance battle when it reveals Jay as a traitor.

Finally:

- The choreography is truly jaw-droppingly good in every single scene dancing appears, I didn't see one bad or cheesy move. Don't believe me? Check out the links below. And what is the name of this movie again??

Lots of writers get very het up about COMMERCIAL films - it's almost a dirty word these days, it seems to me. But why? Streetdance 3D is exactly the type of movie young people WANT to watch - and why not? It has a healthy message, looks fantastic and appeals. We spend a lot of time talking down our youth in this country and it seems to me the more movies we can give them where us *old* people say, "You know what? You lot aren't half bad at all; you can do what you want, so go for it", the better. I would have LOVED to have seen a movie like this when I was younger - instead I had to make do with movies where people thousands of miles away filled in for my UK contemporaries. There's nothing wrong with American movies of course, but Media Imperialism casts such a vast shadow over young people's lives in this country, is it any wonder they flocked in droves to see Streetdance 3D and groups like Diversity and Flawless THEY had voted in on shows like Britain's Got Talent?

LINKS

Streetdance 3D trailer

Streetdance 3D - "The Surge" (played by Flawless)

Streetdance 3D - Dance Battle Scene - where Jay is unmasked as a traitor

Streetdance 3D - Diversity's cameo role

Streetdance 3D - "Breaking Pointe" End Dance

Friday, November 05, 2010

Guest Post: Vamps, Vixens & Feminists 2010 - Notes by Carla Grauls

Many thanks to super Bang2writer Carla Grauls for providing us with some notes on the Vamps, Vixens & Feminists event at the Sphinx Theatre last thursday (Oct 28). About Carla: Carla Grauls is a writer of screen, theatre, fiction and non-fiction. She is working on writing more feminist sci fi. Note: For additional notes on this event. check out the lovely Carmel Shortall's blog, here. Enjoy!
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Beatrix Campbell kicked off proceedings with an inspiring talk about how the paradigms have shifted. Women and men have started questioning people's behaviour, and call them to account - like bankers, a working class woman challenging the pope, even Wayne Rooney can't get away with the typically footballer behavior anymore. Beatrix said this was a new kind of courage to challenge and question what it means to be a man and challenge old perceptions of masculinity. She said gender has become an argument and patriarchy has lost its legitmacy. people are at last questioning issues of money and power - which are traditionally a man's domain. It's the first time in history that capitalism is being judged not celebrated and the macho culture that goes with it.

Then we had Bidisha talk about The Token Woman in the arts (on panels, female playwrights (esp at the national theatre) book award lists etc). She likened the absence or minority of women in the arts as a cultural femicide, with women being erased from public life.

The third panel was about 'creating the roles and expanding the boundaries' about how to keep women in the arts in a sustainable way. Guy Hibbert, screenwriter, said that the change has to come from the writer and the writer should make a conscious decision to write more female protagonists and finding the female stories in traditionally 'male' stories like the war/ banking etc. We need to make women mainstream not marginal.

Glen Walford, who used to run a theatre, added that women need to continue to campaign for their creativity by creating female friendly environments, challenging venues that continue to have a majority of male written work (with the new Gender Duty and outline suggestions/ action points) and not colluding with victimisation.

Maggie Steed (actress) said that you need to make alliances with others in order to survive in a competitive industry and be a feminist by example. And it needs to start with the writers who need to honour their female experiences.

Then there was a panel about sustaining the network and Kate Kinninmont from WFTV talked about launching a new mentoring scheme for older women to tackle ageism.

There was also talk about other initiatives for female actors and technicians.

What came out of the conference was a need to build a network of women who will actively challenge/ campaign for change across the arts and cite the new Gender Duty as a way to make people sit up, take notice and do something about it. This could be a letter signed by 50 women to encourage the National Theatre to have more female playwrights showcased or challenging stereotypical depictions of women in Film & TV.

All inspiring stuff - I was particularly interested in what Bea Campbell said about the change in our times and the potential this has for people to really start listening to a female point of view.
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Thanks Carla and Carmel!

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Guest Post - Fidelity Criticism: Good Book, Bad Movie... Bad Book? GREAT Movie

 Many thanks to A. Hall for writing this post ... Enjoy!
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A friend of mine at some point in the last year and a half asked me if I'd seen Twilight yet. I said no, because I hadn't (and still haven't), and asked her what she thought of it. She said it was bad, but that it was way better than the book, which she found utterly insufferable. As such, there was a case made for one medium proving a superior means to tell a story. Twilight's failings as a work of literature were turned, at least partially, into successes.

One definition of fidelity criticism reads as "The criticism of translation which depends on the notion of the text as having a single correct and permanent meaning, which must be respected by the translator, instead of the polysemous creation which the text in fact is." This goes for adaptations as much as it does translations; a bad book can become a good (or at least better) movie, and a bad movie can come from a very good book.

This isn't so cut and dry, though. Consider the Harry Potter franchise, for example, and how Chris Columbus's straightforward treatments of Sorcerer's Stone and Chamber of Secrets were vastly inferior films to Alfonso Cuaron's Prisoner of Azkaban. Columbus presented his films as mere sequences of events and they suffered as a consequence; Cuaron privileged the storytelling potential of cinema over accuracy and yielded a better standalone feature. There's also Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films, which cut down on the backstory and history in favor of a much faster pace, making Tolkien's story considerably more accessible than it is as a novel (not that the novels are bad, per se, but their appeal doesn't necessarily transcend genre as well as the adaptations do).

There's also cases like Mike Winterbottom's treatment of Laurence Sterne's The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (a novel described many times as "unfilmable") as A Cock and Bull Story. Instead of presenting the narrative of Tristram Shandy verbatim (which would be borderline impossible), Winterbottom instead captures the spirit of the work's digressive, sometimes almost incoherent style by weaving the Tristram Shandy story in and out of a story of the making of the movie. He captures the metafictional elements of the work in a way that could only be achieved by choosing not to make a straightforward adaptation, which would have been an aggressively bad, painfully unpleasant film to watch, devoid of the pleasure of either the novel or the film.

For more straightforward examples consider Alan Rudolph's adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions, described by the author as "painful to watch," or Zack Snyder's ponderous, overlong treatment of Watchmen (though its author, Alan Moore, refuses to have his name attached to any adaptation of his work after a dreadful reworking of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen in 2003). Breakfast of Champions tries too hard to push the social commentary that Vonnegut got away with in the space of his novel, and he renders the characters unbelievable and unpleasant to watch in the process without benefiting in any way from doing so. Watchmen was described by its detractors as being too loyal to its source material to be effective or to find a mass audience, and thus bombed terribly at the box office.

It's not as clear as a good book making a bad movie or vice-versa. It's much more a question of taste, of the source material's accessibility, and whether or not it's designed to succeed more clearly in one form or another. Straightforward adaptations, however, almost always hurt far more than they help.
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ON THIS BLOG BEFORE ABOUT ADAPTATION:

Notes On A Scandal: A Case Study

War of The Worlds: A Case Study

The Art And Business of Adaptation - notes (5 posts)

5 Films That Didn't Get The Book

Show Me the Money: Adaptation

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

London Screenwriters' Festival 2010

Wow. Just WOW. Words can't describe the fantastic experience I had at London Screenwriters' Festival but as we all know I'm not going to let a little *thing* like that try and stop me, so I'll have a go.

Regent's College was amazing. The production staff, volunteers and helper-outers were amazing. The delegates were amazing! Everything was amazing! Oh, you want more? Okay:

Friday. I didn't have any sessions of my own on the Friday so I was tweeting and Facebooking like a mad thing. Leilani was the official blogger for the festival, you can check out all her amazing posts here. Hayley McKenzie of Script Angel pitched in too and we managed to splurge out a selection of soundbites from a variety of sessions, though in hindsight perhaps Hayley and I should have met up so we weren't both at Tony Jordan's session at the same time, haha. BUT IT'S TONY JORDAN, scriptwriting GOD, so of course we both had to be there. Nicola Schindler too provided some really interesting insights, as did Tim Bevan and all the speakers at the Should You Write A Spec Script? Session. NOTE: If you have written up a review of the festival or any of the sessions, please do send me the links and I'll list them all here.

Panel 1. Saturday was my majorly busy day - I was moderating no less than two panels and handling a seminar added to the bill at the last minute, "How to Cope With Rejection". The first panel was on being a parent and a freelancer." It was on at 10am and due to some tube disruptions and a heavy night in the bar before, it was inevitably a small session but one that was really worthwhile. Amy Walker of flexible jobsite Media Parents was there, talking through the difficulties her clients and members face in working freelance and juggling their families and how flexible working can actually benefit us all. Then we heard from Director Rebecca Gatward and TV screenwriter Marc Pye about some of the realities of their working lives and what they've had to do to sustain their careers and their family life. It was truly fascinating and lots of the people who came told me later the session had been a real "eye opener", so I'm hoping the panel will play its part in helping get this very important subject on the media map of discussion for once and for all.

Panel 2. My second panel was "Writing for Soaps", again with Marc Pye but also Danny Stack and Lisa Holdsworth. All are at varying stages of thier TV writing careers and were able to offer fantastic insights into the changing face of continuing drama. I chose all three specifically because they HADN'T been through The BBC Writer's Academy - not because I have anything against the academy, it's a fab initiative - but because writers often seem to hold the erroneous belief that getting in via the Academy is the only way "in". Danny, Lisa and Marc showed delegates there are other ways and amongst other things, discussed their favourite soap storylines they were involved in or had seen.

Rejection. On to 4pm and I ran a small but lively seminar on coping with rejection. Like many writers I used to be CRUSHED by rejection; every single one felt like a nail in my writing career's coffin. I will never forget *someone* telling me, "Once you get 100 rejections, you should give up" - so I would count each letter or email as they came in! How mad is that? Of course I got to 100 relatively quickly and ended up languishing in a writerly-depression of some months until I met I met the mighty JK Amalou who is the most rejection-proof writer I have EVER met. At first I thought he was some kind of alien but five years on I totally get it when he says, "Fuck them all!!!" You gotta do what you gotta do and develop strategies for coping with those inevitable rejections. My personal strategy is "translating" what rejection REALLY means because handily, I am able to see BOTH sides of the coin, being a writer AND script reader. So I talked the delegates who came through a variety of the best known rejections - "Your script is not cinematic enough", anyone? - and exposed some of them for the "get out of jail free" cards they really are and explained why others are sometimes given.

Sunday. Sunday I was tweeting and Facebooking again in the morning, mostly from Janice Day's awesome "Effective Networking" session, then I was asked to participate in the Pitching Sessions in the afternoon so I could give delegates feedback from a script editor's POV. All the writers had passion for their projects which was great to see, but many spent a long time describing the ins and outs of the story itself, rather than putting the actual STORY CONCEPT "upfront", which would be my main advice. It was fascinating to be on the other side of the table. Sunday afternoon I took part in another panel, this time moderated by Evan Leighton-Davis of Industrial Scripts, "Meet The Gatekeepers". Script Consultant Sarah Olley, Alex Mandell of Paramount Pictures, Danny Stack and Jamie Wolpert, who wasn't actually on our bill but Danny randomly found him wandering about and discovered Jamie has worked with none other than the mighty Paul Abbott! The session was packed - something I hadn't expected with Barbara Machin's crime writing panel on at the same time - but went really well, with loads of great feedback.

Can't wait for next year!!!